It is vital to be able to recognize and navigate cultural differences whether you speak the same language or not. If you don’t, you can end up with some serious misunderstandings. The communication strategies discussed in this article will help you communicate with your collaborators or coworkers, and operate your business more effectively.
Culture is defined by patterns of behavior and interactions, cognitive frameworks, and knowledge that are learned through socialization. As a result, culture can be defined as the development of a group’s identity through social patterns that are specific to that group. Comprehending someone else’s culture begins with understanding your own.
What is cross-cultural communication?
Cross-cultural communication occurs when people of differing cultural backgrounds interact with one another. It’s a field of study that analyzes how similarly or differently individuals from different cultures communicate with each other.
Nowadays, many workers work in virtual teams that are located all over the world and communicate using online technologies so cross-cultural communication is now more important than ever. To achieve effective cross-cultural communication, you must be able to understand and implement a diverse range of practices, beliefs, and styles. Because we live in a globalized world, it’s only logical that employers aren’t limited to hiring people in their immediate vicinity.
Why is cross-cultural communication so difficult?
At various levels, we are all members of a culture. In our daily activities, we must consider the culture of the community in which we grew up in, as well as the culture of our workplace. We are continually confronted with a collision of cultures, our own and the culture of the people that surround us or that we work with. When interacting with colleagues from different cultures, disagreements or misunderstandings might leave you feeling confused and misunderstood.
What are the benefits of cross-cultural communication in the workplace?
Cross-cultural communication in the workplace leads to the development of innovative ideas due to the diversity of work teams. Additionally, to close international commercial deals or expand their operations in new markets, businesses need to have a fundamental awareness of cultural diversity.
Opening up to new markets and promoting firms to new areas and cultures became possible thanks to modern technology. Due in part to the pandemic, remote work culture is gaining traction. Employers may now hire employees from all over the world so cross-cultural communication is becoming the new norm to increase efficiency.
8 Tips for Effective Cultural Communication
Here are 8 tips for effective cultural communication:
- Awareness and appreciation
- Maintaining cultural formalities
- Saving face
- Avoiding stereotypes
- Being supportive
- Speaking slowly
- Considering the needs of your clients
1. Awareness and Appreciation
The most difficult aspect of cross-cultural communication is willingly putting your own beliefs aside. Individual differences are all around us, influencing what we do and say. Most people’s expectations of others are often based on their own beliefs.
As a result, many of us have erroneous stereotypes about foreign cultures. Understanding your own cultural belief system is an important aspect of communicating across cultures. You should also reconsider some of your past or current beliefs. This includes taking into account things like:
- This is how the world ought to be.
- How people should act in a certain way.
- Money, family, connections, power, and gender roles.
Personal assumptions should be considered so that you are able to recognize those of others.
It’s impossible to anticipate every cultural belief or tradition you’ll come across when working cross-culturally. This is why it’s critical to develop the ability to include your peers. Not only that, but you must always have open lines of communication so as not to create an “us-them” dynamic.
To be more inclusive, you should:
- Respect other people’s cultural customs, attitudes, and beliefs
- Consider other people’s point of view to show that you care
- Be courteous and attentive when speaking with others
- Respect your peers’ right to privacy when it comes to their personal lives
Consider how your peers want to be addressed when it comes to culture and communication. Consider gender definitions, speaking patterns, and acceptable rules of conduct.
3. Maintain Cultural Formalities
Cultures across the world have different styles, tones, and ways to communicate emotion, commands, and general speech. Research the culture of your interlocutor before a meeting, or conduct some cross-cultural training if time allows. Every society has status, prestige, and power; it’s simply not always evident how they’re communicated.
To demonstrate good faith at the beginning of cross-cultural communication it’s always a good idea to reciprocate in the formality that takes place. For example, if your interlocutor gently bows as it is custom in their culture, you can bow in return. Make sure to avoid using informal language, colloquial language, and slang as even the most educated non-native English speaker will find it difficult to understand or translate these words.
4. Saving Face
Don’t ask a question that requires a yes/no response because it is difficult or embarrassing to respond negatively in many cultures. Depending on the culture of the person you’re speaking to, they might say ‘yes’ even if the true answer is ‘no’. Instead, ask open-ended questions.
Many cultures are centered around the idea of perception. As such, many people will seek to avoid embarrassment or confrontation to salvage the perception you have of them. That’s why it’s recommended to generally avoid joking in the workplace. If you’re going to use humor, make sure it’s understood and accepted by the other culture, and that it doesn’t upset them.
5. Avoid Stereotypes
It’s possible that through culture, history, politics, or customs that you were taught that some nations are hostile while others are goofy. As a result, prejudices about people from these cultures emerge. It’s crucial to avoid preconceptions because they’re frequently erroneous and give a distorted picture of a society.
6. Be Supportive
When communicating with people who are not native English speakers, they sometimes feel apprehensive. They are well aware of their lack of proficiency, which causes them anxiety. Because some people are unsure of their communication abilities, it’s important to be helpful. For effective cross-cultural communication to take place, you must build a foundation of trust.
To be supportive, listen to what they want to say, give them time to share their thoughts, and encourage them when they answer with nonverbal communication. This will help you acquire the trust of individuals from different cultures. As a result, cross-cultural communication will be easier. If the language barriers are too big to establish communication between individuals, consider the services of an interpreter!
7. Speak Slowly
Even if your overseas colleagues are native speakers of the language you’re using in business communications, speak a little slower than normal. Make an effort to carefully articulate your words so that your colleagues can comprehend you. Similarly, avoid using long words and make short interruptions to allow your colleagues to process what you’ve said. However, you should avoid speaking too slowly, as this may come across as patronizing.
8. Consider the Needs of Your Clients
Keep in mind that some of your coworkers may be located on the opposite side of the globe. This implies a different time zone, but it may also limit the communication methods available. Even certain regions of Quebec don’t receive Internet services.
Asynchronous communication may be the greatest solution to this situation. Aside from that, keep in mind that your coworkers may have different holidays. Be aware of diverse religions and cultures among your coworkers. The 24th of October may be a regular day for you, but to some, it is the “victory of light against darkness” in Hinduism!
9. Work with Interpreters
Working with interpreters is the best solution to overcome language barriers. Interpreters often know cultural taboos and nonverbal communication associated with a particular culture. This ensures effective cross-cultural communication.
By taking advantage of SM Global’s interpretation services you can optimize communication, meetings and events, regardless of language. Whether it’s conventional interpreting for court or social services, private meetings, or visiting tourist places, SM Global offers businesses and organizations customized services to fit their every need. Our web and app-based strategy will bring success to your negotiations by providing high-quality online meeting interpretation over great distances.